This essay's purpose is twofold: to problematize the question of the urfi (secular) system versus the religious system and to examine the question of faithful life in a modern and urfi world. As for the first part, the Islamic state is defined by “divine legitimacy of power” and “full implementation of Sharia” as a political platform sanctioned by revelation. This essay suggests that neither claim is legitimate. Political power is a worldly question. Neither the Koran nor Prophet Muhammad himself claimed that he ruled on behalf of God. Nor did Muslims in the early age of Islam have such a perception about the Prophet's authority. The Prophet's rule in Medina was the result of a social contract. As for the full implementation of Sharia law, if governance is not defined and sanctioned by divine authority, then Sharia too, which is in part social regulations and laws within the jurisdiction of the state, cannot be divine. Laws and the legal system are contingent on the existing realities; no law is eternal. As for the second part, the faithful, to live faithfully in an urfi and nonreligious political system is not only possible, but it is indeed preferable. The ideological monopoly of the Sharia-centered system makes free faith much more difficult than it is under nonreligious dictatorships. Nonetheless, historical and existing experiences also reveal that the faithful can have something constructive to offer in civil society and in the public sphere. Religion is not and cannot be fully separable from politics as a social matter. While we can normatively separate the institution of religion and the institution of state, the role that religion can play in politics must nevertheless be acknowledged.
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Hassan Yusefi-Eshkevari; Faithful Life in an Urfi State. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 May 2011; 31 (1): 23–26. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201X-2010-048
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